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My Manchester Story

Joel Kelley

by Marie Fisher | Oct 28, 2021

You transferred to Manchester from another institution. Why did you feel Manchester would be a better fit than where you previously attended?

I was transferring out of a university where my major department was falling apart. By the time I decided to leave, most schools had closed their application window for transfers. I needed a school that I could feel at home in my major and a school where my program worked and cooperated.

I was also unhappy with my professors at my old institution and wanted to be in a place where the professors were what I want to be as a teacher. I received an email from Manchester telling me about their campus and scholarships, so I decided to start looking into the school. On the YouTube channel I discovered two videos showcasing Dr. Lynn and Dr. Humphries, and watching them teach really told me that I would fit into the program here, because I want to be a teacher like them.

When I visited, I hit it off immediately with professors and students, and I loved every second of my visit. My old school was big and, out of 20,000 students, I was the only one in my major, and that often meant that no one knew how to help me. Here at Manchester, the department has been so helpful, and I am constantly in contact with an amazing and supportive team.

You’re studying instrumental music education. What made you decide on this major?

My story goes back a long time. My father was a band kid, as was his mother and several generations prior. I joined band the first chance I could, and I enjoyed it! I loved music, and it was always a large part of my life. When I got to high school, it was rough. The general student body was not very welcoming, and each day was tough to go to school, but the band was supportive and tight knit. I found a home there. I was co-section leader my sophomore year, and the next year, I would be section leader to a large group of rookies in marching band. It was a privilege and an honor to teach two years of rookies to be superb musicians and marchers. I was able to fully experience all the struggles of being a band director: money, administration, transportation, weather, students’ parents, performance spaces under construction, and yet, I still felt that teaching band was my calling.

Music has taught me that emotion is the essence to living life. Joy, pain, sadness – all these emotions are what make life tangible and worth the experience. An ensemble can play a piece of music and be technically flawless, but adding emotions to music makes it tangible and compelling. Music then becomes the greatest form of emotional expression ever, and teaching music can help kids learn the value of emotions, relate to historical music pieces and perhaps even make them more empathetic people.

Music has meant the world to me, carrying me through some tough times, and that is why I believe that teaching music is valuable and what I want to do for the rest of my life. As I see schools cut their performing arts programs, another quote comes to mind, “Sooner or later, these kids aren't going to have anything to read or write about.” Therefore, I find the necessity to teach music. I find myself wanting to share the impact that music made on my life. If I can teach one child to play an instrument and love music for themselves, that is even more valuable than writing a song and being known by the whole world. That child’s life will be better, and they can carry music with them through any hardship. “Playing music is supposed to be fun. It's about heart, it's about feelings, moving people, and something beautiful, and it's not about notes on a page,” and nothing more valuable can be taught.

My hope is that through teaching music I may help other students learn to love music as much as I do. My hope is to find a high school that does not have a band program or has a weakly established program and build a program from the ground up. I hope to create a program that is integrated into the community and helps strengthen the school, the town and perhaps the families associated with the band, and most of all that student's sense of self. I hope to create a culture around the band program and through that culture the students will improve their communities and families.

What instruments can you play?

My primary instrument is trombone, which I play in jazz band, however I march baritone in the Spartan Pride marching band, play tuba in our small brass ensemble, and bass trombone in orchestra. Besides that, as an education major, they want us to learn all instruments so that we can teach them.

 Have you joined any music ensembles or other clubs or organizations? What’s that experience like?

Yes! I am in many music organizations such as the Spartan Pride Marching Band, Manchester Symphony Orchestra, the University jazz band, Oak Leaf Brass, Nafme (a student organization of future music educators), and Gold and Black Attack. As I am only just starting my first semester, I haven’t had the opportunity to join many more student organizations, but I do want to!

The students in each organization are amazingly kind and welcoming. I haven’t found any group that has been limiting or rude. When you show up and join, the older members are just glad you’re here at Manchester and share the same passions!

Can you share advice for other transfer students and how to adapt to new changes?

For any transfer students, or students who are considering transferring to Manchester, first off … I hope you know that it is perfectly fine to transfer schools. When I transferred, I thought that people were going to think that I had just failed and given up, but there is nothing that is healthy fighting to succeed in a place that you just don’t fit in. I thought that I knew what I wanted in a school when I applied to my former school during high school. I was led to believe I knew the situations and state of affairs at that school, and I was so wrong. The longer I was there, the more I knew I didn’t fit, and that the style of education there wasn’t what I wanted to be as a teacher. It was valuable because I learned what I didn’t like and didn’t want to be, and I took that experience and ran with it! I transferred here and found my home.

Keep an open mind, I transferred out of bad experiences, and it took me awhile to remember that this isn’t there and I don’t have to worry about the old issues coming back. Keep an ear to the ground and take advantage of every amazing thing that Manchester can offer you. This school has continually surprised me. Every day, I meet amazing people that have been so welcoming and supportive. The opportunities afforded to Manchester students far outweigh those of other schools, especially for music! For music education, I would say Manchester is second to none. We have amazing faculty and opportunities that can’t be had at other schools: a full-time orchestra, amazingly talented ensembles, travel opportunities, great student teaching and observation placements, and students who are all mutually supportive.

Lastly, don’t be afraid to change and explore. Manchester can be a great restart and is an amazing safe space to explore careers and majors and become (as everyone says… and yes, it might seem overstated but is 100% true) your best self. When I came here, I constantly heard that and it sounded just like one of those strange sayings that universities have, same with “Spartans for Life” … but it is true, and it didn’t take long for me to love hearing those two things. The faculty and staff and students all want to see you achieve your maximum potential. Take the momentum that they and an extremely supportive line of amazing alumni give you and run like the wind, because even if you trip and stumble, the Manchester family will help you, and you will reach heights that aren’t possible anywhere else.

Reach out to students, professors or advisors -- anyone here will support you wholeheartedly. Even me! Reach out and say hey! Ask any questions you have or need! Welcome to the Spartan Family.